Name: Brendan Davis
Job Title: Film Producer-Director
Where: Santa Monica, CA
Years of Experience: A lifetime, really – but it’s paid the bills for two years
Salary: Varies per project (See PayScale's Average Film Producer Annual Salary)
Employer: Tangible Entertainment (Self)
Education: BA, Film and Television (with a minor in Psych – very important!): Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
What is a Film Producer?
What is a film producer? Well, my job is to find and develop material from which – in my opinion – can be created an artistically and commercially viable project, a hit movie. Then I plan and oversee all aspects of taking that project from the page to the silver screen and making it happen. This entails making or overseeing all major decisions involved in the process (both creative and technical). A typical film producer work schedule is hectic!
Did you go to film school? Did film school help your producer career?
Yes – and sort of. I worked my way through college, which took seven years and provided quite an education in itself. I had several majors at the University of Georgia before finding the then-fledgling film school motion picture program at Georgia State University in Atlanta. To sum up, I would say that film school does help in a “knowing feature film history” sense.
What were you doing before producing films for the silver screen?
I started as a live sound engineer mixing bands big and small in clubs and for concerts across the Southeast. This was my day job (more like “night”, really) for most of my college career, though I also did tons of retail and sales jobs here and there (including selling cars and working at Sears, selling riding mowers and power tools on commission).
How did you become a film producer, what were your steps?
Cut to mid-2004. I’ve made the move to L.A. My film school friend Rook Overman is living out of state with his own family, and sound jobs have gotten scarce for me and I’m broke. I came up with the title and basic concept for what eventually became a short script written by Rook, “Age Inappropriate.” I decided I would produce, direct and edit one full movie, which Rook and our friend Andy Hamrick – also a very talented actor – would star in.
Anyway, “Age” earned me enough respect as a creative that a few offers to produce and/or direct various low-budget feature films came my way. “Life With Fiona” was the first of these offers to bear fruit.
What advice would you have for those who want to become a film producer?
I would and do advise people to get jobs working on films – interning for free if they have to – and learn how they are made at a nuts and bolts level before embarking on their own self-financed filmic gems and trying to make one full movie. Also, read everything you can get your hands on re: filmmaking – from every angle. Check out Michael Wiese Publications.
What can you tell us about a film producer’s annual salary?
The average film producer salary varies widely (and wildly) from project to project and person to person, indy and feature film. The film producer typically receives a salary (the best he or she can allow, within the budget) plus a percentage of the gross receipts from all sales channels of the motion picture – in perpetuity. So a hit movie means the producer’s pay will be large, while a film that tanks offers nothing beyond the base salary. The average range for a film producer’s annual salary is anywhere from probably $35,000 to a few hundred thousand a year.
As Brian Glazer – uber feature film producer – said, “Ownership is EVERYTHING.” That will greatly influence your producer salary. You’ve GOT to acquire (or control, by limited-term option) quality “properties” (a.k.a. books, screenplays and stories from which to make movies) or generate them yourself (by writing them or causing them to be written for hire) in order to actually be the producer of a hit movie.
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